In the joust to redraw and manipulate the power terrain, Rakesh Singh, Jabalpur MP and the state BJP president picked by Shah months before the elections, figured nowhere although historically in the state, the chief minister and the regional party chief worked as a team after attaining mutual trust and understanding. “Chouhan had nothing to do with Singh’s appointment so he ignored him,” a source said. Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is the chief central “prabhari” (minder), distanced himself from the tangled exercise. But central vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, who’s also a “prabhari”, was in the thick of the negotiations with Chouhan and Tomar.
How does the multiplicity of players and side-actors involved in distributing 230 tickets reflect on the BJP’s central leadership that supposedly rules over the states with an iron hand? “Shah and Modi kept themselves aloof once they realised that the job was messy. The problems Kailash ji faced are on account of the leaders’ absence of intervention. Kailash ji is close to both. When Modi was the MP ‘prabhari’ (in the nineties), Kailash ji was his window to understanding state politics. When Shah asked if he would resign as minister (in the Chouhan government) and work for the BJP’s central organisation, he instantly put in his papers,” said Subhash Parmar, an Indore BJP worker and a Vijaywargiya loyalist. Yet not only did Chouhan, with help from Tomar, Mahajan and Sahasrabuddhe, ensure that Vijaywargiya was denied a ticket in the name of “sacrificing electoral politics”, he saw to it that a Vijaywargiya acolyte, Ramesh Mendola did not give up his own “safe” seat for the son, Akash although Mendola was willing to. The upshot is Akash has been fielded from a “less safe” constituency and that too after the BJP general secretary (organisation), Ramlal, actively intervened.
Contextualising the scenario in MP’s power politics, a state BJP office-bearer said, “We have been in power long enough for Chouhan and Vijaywargiya to master the art and skill of bestowing patronage and earning loyalties. The CM has mostly packed the positions of power, big and small, with his people. Vijaywargiya coaxes loyalty by working and doing everything he possibly can for the BJP cadre. Chouhan can’t match the following Vijawargiya has in the organisation all over MP and not just Indore. But come elections
and giving out tickets, none of our regional leaders wants to be surpassed by the others in obliging their adherents. Unfortunately, this time Vijawargiya seems to have lost out a bit.”
However, the real test for Chouhan and the others is yet to come because the selection of candidates is the first part of a lengthy and arduous operation in which he and the BJP are up against daunting odds.